Thurka Sangaramoorthy, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, recently received the 2020 General Anthropology Division New Directions Award from the American Anthropological Association (AAA).
The AAA is honoring Sangaramoorthy for her project, “Afterlives of AIDS: Oral histories of Black women living and aging with HIV.” This ongoing, multimodal project centers on African American women’s journeys of finding meaning and community in the face of persistent violence and trauma. “Afterlives of AIDS” illustrates how HIV has shaped women’s lives and impacted their historical and contemporary roles within Black familial systems and broader communities. The project presents holistic and complex stories of African American women who have long been ignored in the history of HIV and often cast aside as drug addicts and prostitutes in popular and scientific discourse. It also documents women’s own analysis of their experiences of intersectional stigma, chronicity, and aging.
“The project on which this award is based is entirely community-driven and focused on storytelling as a significant and transformative modality for advancing racial justice,” Sangaramoorthy said. “I'm honored that the women trusted me with their stories and allowed me to accompany them in making sure that their life histories were preserved for future generations. This project is honestly the highlight of my career, and I share this recognition with all those who believed in its possibilities.”
The “Afterlives of AIDS” project encompasses digital video, interviews, photographs, op-eds in national newspapers and magazines, including pieces reprinted in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Newsweek reaching over 45,000 readers; and a forthcoming book. All project-related materials—including portraits, oral history transcripts, digital voice recordings, and published literature—have also been acquired by the Smithsonian Institute for its permanent digital archival collection, to be housed in the Smithsonian’s Online Virtual Archives (SOVA) by the end of 2020.